Wilson council nixes sweepstakes facility plans

Police department receives grant for 110 body cameras

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Despite garnering planning board members’ approval earlier this month, plans to redevelop an old convenience store on U.S. 301 near Pender Street into an internet sweepstakes facility were halted Thursday by the Wilson City Council.

“Either way you look at it, that location is not conducive for the operation of anything,” Councilman A.P. Coleman said before making a motion to deny the rezoning request for 6546 and 6558 Ward Blvd.

Before a public hearing on the rezoning request began Thursday night, land development manager Janet Holland passed out copies of two letters received opposing the request. One of the letters was from Pastor Pamela Jones at Mount Sinai Church of Christ, which is across the highway from the property.

“We want to continue to feel safe and we know a new casino will bring all types of people,” Jones wrote in her letter.

Hocutt Farms owner Mike Hocutt also expressed his opposition to the request in a letter, contending the proposed business would add unnecessary traffic. Attorney Will Farris represents Hocutt and spoke against the rezoning during the public hearing.

“The characteristics of that piece of property is different from most on 301 and we don’t think it is a good fit,” Farris said.

Robert Bartlett of Bartlett Engineering & Surveying spoke on behalf of the prospective sweepstakes center owners, noting the request is similar to a rezoning less than a mile away on U.S. 301 that was approved in recent months.

“Some people are against sweepstakes, but I don’t think this is a question of whether you are in favor of it or not,” Bartlett said.

The rezoning on U.S. 301 was not the only public hearing held during Thursday’s city council meeting. The public also was invited to speak about demolition orders for several blighted properties.

“I’ve been looking at the house at 1007 E. Nash St. for five years and I’ve seen barns that look better,” said Charles Jones. “After this, I’ll be the only one living on this block. I think you all are doing a good job and I thank you.”

There was a public hearing regarding a $27 million bond Barton College is seeking to improve the campus, but no residents spoke on that subject. Also open for public comments was an annexation request for 0.38 acres at Eagle Farm, a rezoning for 4361 Raleigh Road Parkway W. and rezoning of 3702 Ashbrook Drive NW. Those hearings also did not elicit any public comments and the matters were approved without much discussion.

Other action taken during the Thursday night meeting included approving a requested rate increase from Safety Cab, a request to sell a fire department vehicle and order a new ladder truck for about $1.29 million as well as a bid to repair the dam at Lake Wilson and replace the gate.

The council also approved a $75,806 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The money will be matched by the city to purchase 110 body cameras and equipment for the Wilson Police Department. Wilson was one of 10 agencies across the country with between 25 and 250 officers that received the grant to help implement body camera programs.

“I want to thank the police department for going after this grant and making this possible,” said Councilman Tom Fyle.